The Multi-State ZEV Action Plan Lays Out a Bold, New Framework for Electric Vehicle Adoption

 In EV Industry

In an industry experiencing as much rapid global and domestic change as the electric vehicles industry, updating goals and targets every few years is critical for accelerating growth. The Multi-State ZEV Action Plan 2018-2021 is an attempt to do just this.

The plan released last week by Multi-State ZEV Task Force — a coalition of nine US states that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through vehicle electrification — contains dozens of recommendations for states, automakers, dealers, utilities, charging and fueling companies, and other partners aimed at increasing zero emission vehicle (ZEV) adoption. The recommendations challenge these various players to address ZEV adoption from several angles, including adopting new regulations and incentives, increasing educational resources, and expanding public and private fleets.

It also presents a detailed retrospective on the progress achieved in electric vehicle adoption in the United States during the course of the first four-year action plan. In all, the 2018-2021 action plan includes 80 recommendations, and in this summary, we touch on some of the key findings.

What the 2014 Action Plan Accomplished

In 2013, eight states came together to form the Multi-State ZEV Task Force — an ambitious state-led initiative to promote electric vehicle adoption in line with the state of California’s ZEV program. (New Jersey joined in 2018, making it nine.)

When the task force was assembled, electric vehicles were rare, with fewer than 150,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles combined in the states that made up the task force. Since then, ZEVs have experienced tremendous growth — and now number more than 700,000 in those states.

This growth has been in large part spurred by consumer purchase incentives, such as rebates and sales or excise tax exemptions for individuals who buy ZEVs, and federal and state regulations requiring automakers to produce certain amounts of electric vehicles. But it has also been a result of concerted outreach and educational campaigns like “Drive Change. Drive Electric” that put electric vehicles on the map for many consumers.

In addition, market changes, such as improvements in batteries and charging infrastructure, have driven down the cost of buying electric vehicles.

How the 2018-2021 Action Plan Expands the Vision

The 2018-2021 Action Plan’s key recommendations can be broken down into five overarching categories: consumer education and outreach, charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure, consumer purchase incentives, light-duty fleets, and dealerships.

The authors of the report note that these recommendations are non-binding, and that, “each state is expected to promote ZEV market growth in ways that best address its needs and unique opportunities.”

A common theme across the action plan is that consumers need to be introduced to electric vehicles in new ways and be presented with opportunities to engage with them first-hand. Nearly three-quarters of consumers admit to knowing “little or nothing” about electric vehicles, but more often than not, once they actually test a ZEV they are significantly more inclined to buy or lease one within six months. This engagement can come through “ride and drive” events during which potential buyers can actually test out vehicles, or through brand-neutral ad campaigns like “Drive Change. Drive Electric” in northeastern states or “VELOZ” in California.

It’s not only states but also dealerships and automakers, that must play a role in these education and outreach initiatives. Dealerships can provide employees with loaner vehicles and allow potential buyers to take extended test rides in ZEVs. Automakers can run brand-specific campaigns for electric vehicles and showcase them at auto shows.

Along with education and outreach, the report focuses on how states and other players in the electric vehicle industry need to continue to incentivize consumers to buy ZEVs. Low- and middle-income buyers represent a huge untapped potential growth market for electric vehicle manufacturers, and these incentives can often be the deciding factor for them.

Advocating for the maintenance of the federal income tax credit, which can provide up to $7,500 toward electric vehicle purchases, will be critical for states and automakers if they are to continue to see rapid growth. The task force also recommends that individual states continue to offer state rebates, income tax credits, and sales and excise tax exemptions for ZEV owners.

Non-financial incentives, such as priority access to HOV lanes for electric vehicles and waived tolls on highways and bridges, might tip the scales for a potential buyer.

Another key opportunity for electric vehicle expansion is through ZEV adoption in public and private fleets. Public and private sector fleets currently represent around 15% of automobiles and light trucks sold nationwide. Not only do these vehicles these rack up a lot of miles, but are often replaced, meaning electrifying them can have an outsized impact.

States can set near- and long-term electrification goals for their fleets and encourage private companies to do the same. Fleet managers can also do things like place decals and stickers on electric vehicles that allow those fleets to act as a moving consumer outreach vehicles that demonstrate the fleet’s commitment to ZEV adoption.

Finally, states can reward dealerships and automakers that show a dedication to electric vehicle adoption through press, awards, and knowledge-sharing.

Looking Forward

For the task force, putting in place a new action plan was necessary not only to capitalize on the growth of the electric vehicle industry but also to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The action plan also addresses some of the shortcomings of existing policies and incentives, while urging states to make electric vehicles available to as wide as possible an audience.

“Most consumers buying ZEVs still fall into the category of enthusiastic early adopters, and penetration of ZEV technology into the mainstream automobile market still falls far short of what is needed to combat climate change,” the report reads.

If all of the states in the coalition were to follow California’s path, the impact could be enormous: 12 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030, representing more than 35% of the market share for new vehicles.

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